Code of Cowards
On Salman Rushdie and the shameful hypocrisy of Twitter Rules
As I write, the famed religious satirist Salman Rushdie lies in a hospital bed on a ventilator. His face, neck and body bear multiple stab wounds, from an assailant so quick and ferocious it took at least five courageous men to stop yesterday’s terrorist attack on a stage in New York. We’ve been told that he will likely lose an eye, that the nerves in his arm were severed, and that his liver has been damaged. Hopefully, he will still be alive by the time I publish this piece. If he makes a recovery at all, it will be brutal and slow. Meanwhile, the New York state police have helpfully reminded us that “it’s very early,” and “We don’t have any indication of a motive at this time.”
How has Muslim Twitter responded to this attack? Let’s check in…
Well, um. At least it’s limited to small, unverified accounts, right?
Credit goes to my friend and fellow writer Ben Sixsmith for ferreting out this and more filth in one handy thread. I looked up the originals for every single tweet he screencaps. I could find only two, from an account called “Pakistani Tweets,” that Twitter appeared to have deleted for violating the Twitter Rules. Will “Pakistani Tweets” be permanently suspended forthwith? Who knows? Stay tuned. Meanwhile, as can be seen in replies under this tweet by Turkey Urdu, Ben’s thread barely scratches the surface. Vast swathes of Muslim Twitter are now joined in celebration and praise for the 24-year-old who stabbed an unarmed old man in the neck. And the eye. And the liver. Etc.
Twitter is apparently far too occupied with more pressing business, such as for instance locking out Babylon Bee editor Joel Berry from his account for violating their ban on “gratuitous gore.” His flagged tweet was sharing a picture of what doctors did to a young girl’s arm in order to perform a phalloplasty: flaying her skin to create a fake penis for a sex change surgery. “Exposure to gratuitous gore can be harmful,” Twitter chides, “especially if the content is posted with intent to delight in cruelty or for sadistic pleasure.”
Meanwhile, the Bee’s official account has been locked since March, for a tweet “misgendering” Rachel Levine that they chose not to delete. Jordan Peterson similarly chose not to delete a flagged tweet daring to “deadname” Ellen Page (and challenge the ethics of her mastectomy surgeon). Twitter would have allowed them to continue tweeting, with black marks on their accounts, had they cooperated with the fiction that these tweets constituted “violence,” “threats,” or “harassment” on the basis of “race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.” They simply chose not to, and so they have been functionally banned from the platform. (Re-reading the Rules makes me wonder idly how many virulently anti-Christian tweets Twitter HQ has bothered to flag for harassment on the basis of “religious affiliation,” while they were busy making sure nobody used the wrong pronouns for a trans person. We’ll never know, I suppose.)
However, popular Sokal-squared hoaxer James Lindsay was officially permabanned recently, after an exchange where he called a “queer” journalist a “child sexualization specialist.” He had previously received strikes for using the phrase “ok groomer” and for saying the translation of “Long Covid” is “vaccine injury.” Oh, yes, I forgot, it’s also very important that nobody be allowed to say the Wrong Things about COVID. That could get you a strike too. Tsk, tsk!
Lindsay was a large target, but Twitter will pick on accounts of any size. My own old account had accumulated a grand total of ~8800 followers when I got my second strike, as I’ve written about elsewhere. At the time, I also wrote about a friend who received a strike the same week I did, for tweeting candidly about LGBT issues, in one instance literally just making a basic comparison between monkeypox and AIDS—perhaps because that tweet happened to be a reply to Tim Pool. (Though really, I have no clue, I’m just guessing here.) Incidentally, this friend is himself HIV+, a survivor of clerical abuse, and one of the gentlest souls I know. But he tweets out loud about the fact that gay men are often abused and often struggle with mental illness, in the sincere hope that they will find spiritual healing and peace. One must keep an eye on such dangerous characters.
All of this is a farce, of course. Anyone with any sense has known this for some time. It’s not that I oppose the idea of a code against violence, harassment, etc., in the abstract. In the hands of executives who weren’t a gaggle of corrupt ideologues, perhaps it could be an effective way to filter out actual violence, or actual harassment. Instead, what we’ve actually gotten is its own form of established religion: Question not the sacred sexual dogma. Touch not the anointed trans celebrity and his/her/their/xir pronouns. Contradict not the Ten Commandments of the CDC, at least until the next time the CDC contradicts themselves.
Meanwhile, the man who ordered a fatwa on Salman Rushdie is still tweeting away. The goddamned Taliban was literally able to live-tweet their way through Afghanistan, in case nobody noticed.
Apparently, Twitter didn’t. Or didn’t want to, rather. Because, like all religious bullies, they’re cowards. They always have been, and always will be.
Those inclined to pray should pray for Salman Rushdie today, as well as for other writers who have had to live parts of their lives in hiding and now openly stand in solidarity with him. Prayers of thanks should also be offered for the ordinary staff and audience members who did a security detail’s job and may have saved Rushdie’s life yesterday. May their courage be an inspiration. And may he live to have the last laugh yet.
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